You've seen wedding parties receive the star treatment from professional photographers. The resulting images present an imaginative, beautiful view of the couple's nuptials, complete with interesting views of private moments and accompanied by a large bill. Now that it's your turn to plan a wedding, how much money you can save on your own wedding photography depends on the kinds of compromises you're willing to make and the results you want to achieve.
Negotiating with a photographer won't turn a $5,000 fee into a $500 one. You can lower the price by buying less of the photographer's time and maximizing the value of the hours for which you pay. Instead of securing services for the entire day and adding in an extra shoot to take engagement photos, ask for a package that includes only the ceremony and a specific amount of time before and after it. Expect to save more money if you book well in advance, schedule your wedding in any season other than summer and choose a day other than Saturday for the big event. You also may be able to trim the budget if you can offer the photographer referrals to other couples through a blog, social media or word-of-mouth.
If you're skilled at retouching and color correcting images, through either online classes or professional experience, you can save money by doing your own work. This approach makes two assumptions. First, your photographer must agree to sell you the digital "negatives"—RAW files straight from the camera—and therefore the reproduction rights. Photographers typically retain the copyright to the images they take and make a high percentage of their revenue from the reprints they sell you, so expect to pay more up front for the rights and less later to share the photos. Second, you need a computer system with a high-quality monitor, preferably one that you can calibrate for color accuracy, and both the time and the willingness to work on the images yourself.
Wedding albums range from coffee-table-quality hardback books to simple volumes filled with photo insert pages, with prices to match. If you secure the rights to your images, you can craft your own album on your computer, but you're trading your time for the dollars you save. Alternatively, you can set up a plan through which your relatives buy their own copies of a professionally crafted album from the photographer, either on an online gift registry or a crowd-sourced "fund-my-wedding" page on a site that enables you to accrue donations toward wedding expenses.
Going the do-it-yourself route poses a big risk. You may save thousands of dollars at the expense of missing out on great photos of important wedding memories. Photographers hone their craft over years of experience, bring backup equipment to sustain their work in the event of a camera failure and lend a keenly professional aesthetic eye to the way they capture your event. If you place your wedding in the hands of friends and family with digital cameras, make an exhaustive list of the poses and moments you want and treat the process like a scavenger hunt. Before you entrust a significant portion of your wedding gallery to your best friend and your uncle, ask to see the cameras they'll use and some of the images they've taken with them. This process helps you weed out the would-be contributors.
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